Wednesday 29 March 2023

To strive, not to succeed


A political strategy which depends on appealing to a certain section of the electorate by demonising and persecuting an identifiable group of people faces a serious problem should the stated objective ever be achieved: it would need to find another identifiable group to persecute instead. Far better to demonstrate the effort being made to tackle the problem without ever actually succeeding. The Tories may shout “Stop the Boats”, but in reality that is the last thing they want. Take away that slogan and what do they stand for; what is their appeal to that particular section of the electorate? It might be argued that they could then claim the credit for the success, but that’s not likely to be a very long-lived benefit. No, the Tories need the boats to keep coming in order to demonstrate their strength and resolve in tackling the problem.

Whilst some of their more extreme members haven’t worked out yet that the objective is not to succeed but merely to strive and are demanding that the UK withdraw from any conventions which might stand in the way, the PM himself realises that the political advantage which he seeks lies in the battle, not the victory. Tough rhetoric coupled with draconian-sounding laws which can never be effective is the starting point, but he actually needs the international courts to stand in his way and obstruct the government. That’s an essential part of the performance. Paying Rwanda to take a few asylum-seekers (maybe, sometime, perhaps) whilst turning a blind eye to Rwandan actions which drive more people into becoming refugees is another. And then we have the ‘revelation’ that the UK is diverting money from overseas aid to pay for dealing with the refugees once they arrive in the UK. Few things could do more to ensure that the flow of refugees continues than diverting money from addressing poverty, famine, and natural disasters in the poorest countries and spending it in one of the richest.

The success of the strategy depends not on achieving the stated objective, but on being seen to forever tweak it and find others to blame for its failure. And, of course, on the gullibility of the relevant electors, aided and abetted by those sections of the media which actually give it credence. Perversely, the best hope of defeating it might be the enemy within the Tory Party, in the shape of a certain Boris Johnson. No, not in the sense of changing anything the government does; more in the sense of diverting attention away from the perpetual war against immigrants and reminding people of other aspects of modern conservatism, such as sleaze, dishonesty, entitlement and self-enrichment. If there’s one person willing to serve up a never-ending dose of diversionary news, we probably couldn’t hope for better than Johnson. I find myself almost hoping that a by-election is called and that he wins it. Second best is no by-election and the thorn remains very firmly in the side, ensuring that Sunak continues to limp along, frustrated at every turn by the latest news from the deluded inhabitants of Borisworld. Fun though it might be to watch, sadly none of it helps refugees or potential refugees, and worst of all, there are no signs that the potential alternative UK government will be any more sympathetic, or even try to be; it will merely seek to be more ‘efficient’ at dealing with the perceived ‘problem’. As ever, the poorest and most vulnerable are bit actors, whose fate is of no concern. It should be.

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